In-situ and Ex-situ Conservation Methods

4.3   Explain how in situ and ex situ conservation methods are used to maintain biodiversity.  Refer to protected areas and/or reserves, seed banks, botanic gardens, zoos, sperm banks 

In Situ Conservation Methods

In-situ conservation, the conservation of species in their natural habitats, is considered the most appropriate way of conserving biodiversity.

Conserving the areas where populations of species exist naturally is an underlying condition for the conservation of biodiversity. That's why protected areas form a central element of any national strategy to conserve biodiversity.  

Ex Situ Conservation Methods

Ex-situ conservation is the preservation of components of biological diversity outside their natural habitats.  This involves conservation of genetic resources, as well as wild and cultivated or species, and draws on a diverse body of techniques and facilities.  Some of these include:

Ex-situ conservation measures can be complementary to in-situ methods as they provide
an "insurance policy" against extinction. These measures also have a valuable role to play in recovery programmes for endangered species.  The Kew Seed Bank in England has 1.5 per cent of the world's flora - about 4,000 species - on deposit.

In agriculture, ex-situ conservation measures maintain domesticated plants which cannot survive in nature unaided.

Ex-situ conservation provides excellent research opportunities on the components of biological diversity. Some of these institutions also play a central role in public education and awareness raising by bringing members of the public into contact with plants and animals they may not normally come in contact with. It is estimated that worldwide, over 600 million people visit zoos every year.

Ex situ conservation measures should support in-situ conservation measures (in-situ conservation should be the primary objective). 1 

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The role of Protected Areas in maintaining biodiversity

A protected area is a geographically defined area that is designated or regulated and managed to achieve specific conservation objectives. It may be set aside for the protection of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources and is managed through legal or other effective means. 

This includes national parks and nature reserves, sustainable use reserves, wilderness areas and heritage sites

Protected areas (Pas) have been widely used as a conservation tool in order to maintain a representative sample of unaltered species and eco-systems for the future, and to limit the potential for environmental degradation through human mismanagement of resources.

At present, approximately 8,500 PAs exist throughout the world in 169 countries.  This covers about 750 million hectares of marine and terrestrial ecosystems, which amounts to 5.2 % of the Earth’s land surface.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has a key role in promoting the establishment of protected areas throughout the world.  Since 1948, IUCN has developed standards and guidelines for PA management.  Protected areas have been established following the categories defined by the IUCN. 

(It should be noted that strict protection categories (categories I – III) have mostly been applied in the developing countries, whereas categories V and VI are the most commonly used in the developed world).

Category I Strict Protection. Sometimes called strict nature reserve/wilderness areas. Protected areas managed mainly for science or wilderness protection. Generally smaller areas where the preservation of important natural values with minimum human disturbance are emphasized.

Category II Ecosystem Conservation and Tourism. Sometimes called national parks. Generally larger areas with a range of outstanding features and ecosystems that people may visit for education, recreation, and inspiration as long as they do not threaten the area's values.

Category III Conservation of Natural Features. Sometimes called natural monuments. Similar to National Parks, but usually smaller areas protecting a single spectacular natural feature or historic site.

Category IV Conservation through Active Management. Sometimes called habitat and wildlife (species) management areas. Areas managed to protect and utilise wildlife species.

Category V Landscape/Seascape Conservation and Recreation. Sometimes called protected landscapes/seascapes.

Category VI Sustainable Use of Natural Ecosystems. Sometimes called managed resource protected areas. Protected areas managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems.

In the past, it was assumed that the best way to preserve biodiversity was to conserve it through protected areas by reducing human activities or completely excluding humans.  Population growth and poverty were seen as main causes of environmental degradation; people were regarded as a problem from which the environment needed protecting.  Accordingly, protected areas and parks were fenced off from local people, traditional practices were prohibited, and people were held under penalties of fines or imprisonments for utilising park resources.  However, there are very controversial scientific and social problems with this approach, which was characterized by serious conflicts between local communities and the state.

This therefore led to a transformation in thinking and the recognition that:

1.      Local people understand their environment and have extensive knowledge of the resources within their local environment

2.      The exclusion of local people from protected areas may actually lead to impoverishment of their biological diversity, with both ecological and social costs

3.      Traditional practices enable people to live with nature in a mutually beneficial way.   For example, instead of banning hunting altogether, a series of regulations could be put in place to regulate hunting, i.e., prohibitions on killing juveniles, or pregnant females

4.      Many communities still do not see wildlife and the environment as their own property because they are not involved in decision-making and have little responsibility in conservation projects

5.      Revenues earned from PAs have not always been passed on to communities

PA management has taken on a more holistic approach to assessing biodiversity and environmental protection -   it has to be effective in linking conservation with human needs.  PA management must take into account the local people’s realities, that is, policy formulation must be based on a more realistic understanding of the social and political dimensions of natural resources management. 2 

Protected Areas in Jamaica

I.                    The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park

II.                 The Montego Bay Marine Park

In 1990, Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park was declared Jamaica’s first terrestrial national park. Located on the eastern end of the island, it protects one third of the approximately 30 percent of Jamaica that is still under natural forest cover. 3

The park, which measures 58 km by 19 km, contains the largest area of natural forest remaining in Jamaica, and is high in biodiversity – it has one of the highest levels of endemism in the Western Hemisphere. 4

·        About 40 % of the plants and animals found there are endemic to Jamaica, or are found only in the Park’s ecosystems. 

·        In the Blue Mountain region, of 240 species of higher plants, 47 percent are endemic.  In the John Crow Mountains, 32 percent of the 278 species of flowering plants are endemic. 4

·        It is home to the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly (an endemic species that is the second largest butterfly in the world). A few of the more widely recognized endemic animals are the Jamaican Tody, the Jamaican Blackbird and a suite of local hummingbirds, the Jamaica Hutia (Coney), the Jamaican Boa (yellow snake) and many species of tree frogs. 3

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Online Resources   

Montego Bay Marine Park 


Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust


"The Weight of a Petal: The Value of Botanical Gardens" by H. Bruce Rinker


Plant Genebanks: Food Security by Geoffrey C. Hawtin and Jeremy Cherfas


A Special Gleaner Feature on Pieces of the Past - Jamaica's Botanical Gardens


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1.   Glowka, L. et al., 1994. A Guide to the Convention on Biological Diversity

Environmental Policy and Law Paper No. 30

IUCN Gland and Cambridge. Xii + 161 pp.


2.   Biodiversity and Protected Areas: the concept and case studies

U. Grant, S. Kratli, Y. Mahiba, C. Magnussen, G. R. Saavedra & I. Rodrigues, 1998.


3.  Parks in Peril

Jamaica | Blue and John Crow Mountains | Protected Area


4.  Dunkley, C. S. & S. Barrett, 2001.

Case Study of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, Jamaica

Canari Technical Report, 282

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